Day 2: Libano – Bahia Blanca
My fuel is running low. Maria Alicia told me there is a service station 30 kilometers on the road that at times has gasoline. Not today. Another 18 kilometers further, for sure. A few kilometers ahead Jimi stops autonomously on the two-lane road. It’s a grey day with a light drizzle. I laugh at the only meter that works: ‘halfway’ apparently means ‘almost empty’. Jose’s indication of 7, 8 kilometers per liter appears slightly optimistic. Within 10 minutes a car stops, the sane, modern version of mine. Matias gets out, smiles and assumes, in good English, ‘no gas?’. ‘Nope’, I smile, ‘rookie mistake’. He mentions that the next gas station is only 10 kilometers away. ‘I know’, I tell him, ’10 kilometers too far’. Matias drives me there and I buy two jerry cans of 5 liters each. Silently I pledge to keep them filled always for a 50 kilometer gas reserve. We drive back to my Jeep, Matias helps me to pour the fuel, gives me a big hug and his business card ‘in case I need help’. If only he knew.
Back again at the gas station I put another 20 liters of expensive fuel which should be enough to get to the next, and cheaper, YPF. As Matias already promised, the landscape now is changing, more varied, more beautiful. Hills loom at the horizon. I stop at times to take pictures. Sometimes the motor stops on its own when gearing down. Strange. When I get to the YPF in Sierra de la Ventana Jimi makes a strange noise when I start the engine. The attendant and I share a meaningful look. I drive into the village looking for the right road when Jimi stops again. Nothing. Shit. I walk back again to the gas station, where Sergio happily drives me back to my car. Using his jumper cables works sufficiently to get my Jeep just around the corner of Martin-the-mechanic’s workshop. Sergio says goodbye with a hug and sincerely wishes me luck on my trip. Now I am sure I will need it.
Martin fixes the car’s battery, which cables apparently are loose. Later I find the problem occurs when I turn on the headlights. It’s all the police officer’s fault. En passant Martin sends me in the right direction in case I want to see the ventana, the ‘window’ from which the town derives its name. The landscape of hills, swaying grasses, rocks and yellow flowers is beautiful. I drive past a viewpoint and then, as in a miracle, see the window. And the light. Finally I know what I came here to see. Maria Alicia told me there is a camping and a fantastic view from the top. I don’t doubt her, but can’t make up my mind what to do and hate it. Spend the night and take another day? Or keep going? Yes or no? Not having driven many kilometers this day so far, I finally decide to hit the accelerator and continue to Bahia Blanca.
For a moment I’m afraid I won’t make it there when the gas indicator runs low fast again, but the YPF comes around just in time. Just past Bahia Blanca at the gas station I hear myself asking if I can set up camp in their backyard. Maybe I should have checked if there is a white bay in Bahia Blanca. I didn’t. It’s a quiet night, except for the sounds and lights of tens of passing trucks on this through route going south. My camping spot may not be too idyllic, but it is not too bad either.
That changes when overnight all hell breaks loose. All of a sudden the wind starts to blow violently, which makes the outer tent and span lines (I did not bother to tie them up) smack the inner tent. And me. I know that packing my stuff and getting in the car parked next to the tent, is useless. The tent will be gone in a second. I decide to lay closely to the inner tent on the side where the wind hits hard. Thunder and lightning obviously let to a cloud-burst. The tent, my sleeping bag and me get soaked, but we survive. At 4 in the morning the weather gods call it a day. Despite my plight I sleep for a while. After another cold shower, this time in the YPF’s bathroom, and a hot gas station coffee it’s time to hit the road. Patagonia here I come!